Sunday, August 23, 2009

Palestinians: No to 'natural growth'

PA sources tell Ynet they are working to change possible Israeli-American compromise slated to allow completion of some 2,500 housing units in West Bank settlements

Ali Waked

The Palestinian Authority is unhappy with the recent developments in the talks between Israel and the United States. Palestinian sources told Ynet on Sunday morning that they were working to change the deal being formed between Washington and Jerusalem, which is slated to allow the completion of some 2,500 housing units in West Bank settlements. The sources said the Americans has briefed the Palestinians on the recent developments in their dialogue with Israel.

"Even if the return is a complete halt, we demand that the Americans won't approve any additions and pressure Israel," one of the sources said. "Like with the natural growth matter, the construction stages issue can also serve as an opportunity for an Israeli evasion."

The Palestinians claim that at any given moment Israel can add thousands of housing units, claiming they are in the process of construction completion. "We believe that if the plan is to strike a deal within two years, there is no room for these additions, and we have made it clear to the Americans," the source said.

He added that that Americans had told the Palestinians that even if the construction were to be carried out, this did not mean that the area would be part of the Israeli territory as part of the permanent agreement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak's special representatives, Yitzhak Molcho and Mike Herzog, who returned from meetings with senior US administration officials, briefed the cabinet's narrow forum on Thursday on a possible compromise with the Americans over settlement building: Freezing construction in the settlements while allowing the completion of buildings whose construction has already begun.

At the same time, according to the compromise, Arab countries will offer gestures in the form of steps of normalization with Israel.

According to the emissaries, a possible compromise will allow the completion of some 2,500 housing units which are currently being built. However, the Americans are still insisting on a complete freeze of new construction and building starts, including in the settlement blocs and communities in the Jerusalem vicinity, which Israel believes will remain under its sovereignty after a permanent agreement with the Palestinians is signed.

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